Great Moments in Catholic History

Rev. Edward Lodge Curran
Neumann Press
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
114 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 

Inviting the reader in with its black and white illustrations on each page, Great Moments in Catholic History presents one hundred exceptional events in the history of the Catholic Church. Originally published in 1938, each page presents a great moment beginning with the Annunciation and ending with Pope Pius XI's 1937 Encyclical letter on Atheistic Communism. At the end of the book there are 500 quiz questions, 5 for each of the 100 historical events, to review the lessons learned.

This book would be helpful in enriching the study of history with a Catholic perspective. One cannot begin to appreciate history without first understanding the impact of Christ and His church on historical events; The easy-to-read format of this book makes that understanding almost effortless.

The author recommends using this book as a supplement for seventh and eighth graders. However my younger students have benefited from using Great Moments in Catholic History as a read-aloud book. Not only have the children enjoyed learning from our read aloud time, but so have I.

Like many of Neumann Press' books, Great Moments in Catholic History is beautifully bound. The black hardcover is embossed with gold and it is filled with ivory 60-pound paper.

Another reviewer comments that she had a few concerns about this book although she found it helpful overall. Please click here for her comments.

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"The Gospel of St. John ... tells us in simple language that all can understand how the Jews refused to believe in the divinity of Our Lord." [pg. 12 - quoting John 1:10-11]"

This is not the focus of the Gospel of St. John, as it is understood by the Catholic Church. The "world" referred to in John 1:10 is the entire world, not the Jewish people in particular; and while John 1:11 clearly refers to Israel, it's not understood by orthodox Catholics to refer to Jews alone, nor to all Jews (see, for example, Envoy Magazine's study of the Gospel of St. John). The Catechism of the Catholic Church stresses that references to "the Jews" in the Gospel of St. John are interpreted as referring to the Jewish leadership of Jesus' day (e.g. paragraph 575); however the Rev. Curran, while often mentioning Jewish culpability in the death of Jesus, the persecution of the apostles, and the martyrdom of St. Stephen (see pp. 4, 5, 9, 10, 11), seldom makes this distinction; and mentions only once (p. 13) that the apostles and Our Lady were also Jewish. By this time, however, a stark dichotomy has been set up between the Holy Family and the apostles on the one hand, and "the Jews" on the other.

"In the middle of the nineteenth century a German Jew, named Karl Marx, tried to arouse all people against their governments." (pg. 83)

Not only is the mention of Marx's Jewishness utterly irrelevant to the discussion of Catholic practice in the nineteenth century, it's not even true. Karl Marx's parents had been Jewish, but had converted to Christianity, and Marx was baptized as a Lutheran at the age of six. Rev. Curran thus commits the same racialist fallacy that the Catholic Church condemned during the Second World War, in finding Jewishness to be a matter of genetics rather than of faith. It's hard to see Curran's choice of words as anything other than anti-Semitic.

For the record, I find Great Moments in Catholic History to an excellent introduction to Catholic history for younger students. However I do not use pages one through thirteen (there are many other excellent resources for bible history available to Catholics - such as The Bible Story by George Johnson and Bible History by Ignatius Schuster), and begin instead with the persecutions by the Roman emperors; and a black Sharpie pen made quick work of the offensive passage on page 83. Naturally, a thorough Catholic education must cover post-1930's history, including the remarkable advances in Catholic-Jewish relations during the pontificate of John Paul II. But I couldn't let the serious flaws of this book go unaddressed.

Contributed by Sharon Dever